In many ways this team has grown faster than the fans, who continue to cling to old insecurity blankets, the belief that it will all go wrong at any moment. There won’t have been many fans who weren’t counting down every second at 2-0 against Chelsea, warning anyone who would listen that if the visitors scored, as they surely would, another one or two would follow and the world might as well end. Yet in retrospect, the team had this. We were the weak ones. Chelsea tried to antagonise, but Spurs just offered a wry smile and kept the ball.
If you’ll excuse a literary analogy, and you’re going to have to because I’m going to use them a lot, Spurs are on the Hero’s Journey – a concept Christopher Vogler adapted from Joseph Cambell’s ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’. The Hero’s Journey is the physical and/or emotional journey undertaken by the protagonist in myth, legend and well, almost all storytelling. Without that journey, literal or metaphorical, there is no story. There must be conflict and change or there is no story.
The journey begins with a Call To Adventure and an initial refusal before the hero Meets the Mentor. On Spurs’ current journey, that was the moment Daniel Levy appointed Mauricio Pochettino. After Crossing the First Threshold, there are Tests, Allies and Enemies before the Approach to the Inmost Cave, also known as Stamford Bridge in May.
‘Often it’s the headquarters of the hero’s greatest enemy, the most dangerous spot in the Special World,’ writes Vogler. The fixture list didn’t allow it to be them (their name is arsenal, but you’re supposed to use the shift key), but Chelsea run them a close second in terms of antagonists and so, Spurs entered the cave at the end of last season, their title hopes on the line. Spurs enjoyed early success, went 2-0 up only to lose their collective minds in the face of tremendous adversity.
It’s easy to forget (no it isn’t) just how strong the tide was in terms of the entire footballing world wanting Leicester to win the league and what that can do to a young team enjoying a fairy-tale season of their own; being told your own story isn’t valid, that you are the bad guys. As such, when the tension became unbearable, they snapped, because this wasn’t the end of Spurs’ journey, it was the middle and they were undergoing The Ordeal.
The Ordeal occurs roughly midway through the Hero’s Journey. It is the moment all heroes must pass through in their journey of self-awareness, the moment that ‘however frightening to the hero, is sometimes the only way to recovery or victory’.
Those that come through The Ordeal are then granted The Reward – ‘the knowledge and experience that leads to greater understanding and a reconciliation with hostile forces’. It’s like the bit in Star Wars where Luke rescues Leia and captures the plans of the Death Star – the key to beating Darth Vader. So, with Spurs insisting they have learned from last season’s capitulation, we enter this season and the point at which we now stand –
The Road Back.
We are into Act Three, where the hero is pursued by the evil forces. More tests remain, specifically the final moments, against the main antagonist which represents most difficult test of all, but armed with the new knowledge, identity, experience and self-awareness, hopes are high that the hero has changed and can finally defeat the foe. It is not enough for the hero to say he has changed in a well-meaning interview on the Spurs website, he must demonstrate that lessons have been learned through actions.
That is where the ruthless dismantling of Chelsea and West Brom comes in. Lessons have been learned, the hero is more experienced, he is ready for the final test. The end is in sight. Still to come – The Resurrection and Return with the Elixir. Can Spurs complete the journey?